Interview: Anoushka Lucas, “I think you can expect a Henry like you haven’t seen before”

Donmar Warehouse’s much anticipated production of Henry V, starring Kit Harington in the title role, opens tonight. Anoushka Lucas, who was recently  nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Black British Theatre Award and stars opposite Harington as the French Princess Katherine as well as taking on the role of Gower, spoke to us ahead of opening night.

We spoke about how this production of Henry V differs from previous adaptions, the challenges of playing dual roles, and surprise award nominations.

Anoushka Lucas in rehearsals for Henry V. Photo: Marc Brenner.

The Understudy Q&A for Anoushka Lucas

Hi Anoushka, thanks for taking time out of your preparations for Henry V to speak with us about the show – what can we expect from this production of Henry V?

I think you can expect a Henry like you haven’t seen before: something darker and maybe more explosive, that really digs deep into what nationalism and war and empire mean today. The show is large in scale, both verbally and physically. Hopefully it’ll be exciting to watch. 

You’re playing Katherine and Gower in the show – what can you tell us about the roles?

They’re both very strong women in very different settings. Katherine is the Princess of France, she knows that if her family lose the war she will have to marry Henry. She’s politically savvy but careful and measured too. Gower is an army Captain in the British army – she’s far more direct, and practical and capable. They’re both huge fun to play.

Is there a particular challenge in playing a dual role like this?

The quick changes!

Anoushka Lucas (centre) with Jude Akuwudike (left) and Kit Harington (right) in Henry V. Photo: Helen Murray

The play is directed by Donmar Associate Director Max Webster with Kit Harington taking on the role of Henry V. How has the rehearsal process been?

The rehearsal process has been really physical and really bonding as a result. We’ve been doing a huge amount of movement with an ex-marine called Tom, as well as with the wonderful movement director Benoit Swan Pouffer – and then work on the text itself with Max. It’s sort of been like putting a huge jigsaw together piece by piece. The company is full of wonderful humans, so we’re having a good time. 

You’ve recently performed in After Life at the National Theatre and in Jesus Christ Superstar, both to socially distanced audiences – how does it feel to get back to playing to full capacity audiences? 

I was surprised actually at how full socially distanced audiences can feel. I think the act of coming together in a room and sharing a story is magic whether it is to 15 people, 50 people or 500 people. That being said, we stepped up to full capacity for the end of After Life and there was a notable shift – I think I appreciated that far more than I ever did before. It will be a real delight to play to a full Donmar audience. I’ve watched many shows there, so to be on that stage is a bit of a dream. 

Anoushka Lucas and Jude Akuwudike in Henry V. Photo: Helen Murray.

You were nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Black British Theatre Awards last year for your performance in After Life – that must have been a great feeling?

That really caught me off guard! After Life felt like a proper ensemble piece, we crafted with a huge amount of love. I was very glad to be a part of it and to have that recognised by the BBTAs was a lovely, lovely thing. The awards themselves were joyful AF and it felt good to come together with so many peers and celebrate each other. 

Finally, how would you describe this production of Henry V to someone considering buying a ticket for the show?

I can’t describe it, you’ll have to come see it!